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Originally published Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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Reader advice on kids’ clothes, divorce, fairness

Carolyn Hax passes the advice-giving on to her readers while she is out of the office.

Syndicated columnist

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All society asks is that females dress appropriately. Does that expectation really... MORE

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Dear Carolyn

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On overly sexualized clothing for girls:

Why feel nervous about little girls’ short-shorts and midriff tops? Would people similarly get nervous about a little boy playing outside in the summer with no shirt at all?

I know it’s hard to raise kids in a world that isn’t always safe for them. Does a little girl’s clothing choice matter in that regard? How can you say that to a child without hurting her? “We don’t want you to wear the short-shorts in fashion because we don’t want you to attract the wrong kind of attention.” That’s kind of the peewee version of the rape myth, what a woman wears or does is part of why she gets raped.

Parents should focus less on shaping girls into their image of what a girl should be, and more on strengthening them for their futures as young ladies.

— M.

I believe that there are several things the family can do to make sure a girl is safe and body-proud, which will shield her better than a focus on clothing.

First, Mom and Dad can make a point to praise the daughter once a week or more on something she has done, whether a book report, or learning to turn a cartwheel, or listening to a friend.

Second, give her an opportunity to be part of a community focused outside herself: e.g., packing boxes for the food bank or painting for a Habitat for Humanity house. This is all about the person she will be, not the clothes she wears.

Last, see that she is involved in something she loves that makes her sweat. It can be karate, dance, gymnastics, swim or playing an instrument. Athletes (and marching-band members) in high school with 7 a.m. practice don’t wear much makeup, especially when they have a match at 4 p.m. as well. Athletes are proud of their bodies just the way they are, thanks.

— S.

On being friends with both halves of a divorcing couple:

It’s not about deciding whose side you were on in the divorce, but being clear about the kind of friendship you can offer moving forward. What you see as anger probably includes a lot of pain. Do you want to be there for her to talk about anything, including that pain? Anything except the divorce? Or do you just want to be socially comfortable? Be sure you tell them the truth.

To survive a difficult divorce, a person has to establish boundaries and find emotional safety. Are you available for that? They deserve to know your new limits — will you be talking to him on the street politely, inviting him to dinner, or baking his birthday cake if necessary? Then she can decide if this is “just one more thing” to get used to (in a world where everything has changed) or if she needs to look for new, more emotionallysecure relationships.

— Surviving Friend

On fairness:

“Fair” is the card people play when they don’t like the hand they’ve been dealt and they want what you have.

I find this applies in many circumstances, not merely ugly family dynamics.

— Pastor/Chaplain

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

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